The Best Document Camera Alternative For Teachers

Using phone as document camera on computer screen

Teachers and instructors use document cameras to share handwritten formulas, instructions, demonstrations and diagrams. However, traditional document cameras can be expensive, clunky and difficult to use.

How can teachers share information to the classroom screen without costly hardware?

The answer lies in your pocket. Or on your desk. Or maybe it’s currently charging on your nightstand.

You can replace your classroom document camera/visualizer with just your personal device and one app for your computer. This method will allow you to demonstrate, dissect, explain and share during class sessions. Better yet, you can even use this method as a document camera for distance learning via videoconferencing software. Read on to discover how.

Here’s what you need:

  • A phone or tablet
  • The Mac/Windows app Reflector
  • A classroom display like a TV, projector or digital whiteboard

Reflector is a desktop app that turns your computer into a wireless receiver. That means you can screen mirror almost any device directly to your computer (which can be connected to your classroom display) without any cables or adapters. It will turn your phone or tablet into a document camera. Here’s how.

How to turn your phone or tablet into a document camera

Step 1

Download and install Reflector on your Mac or Windows computer.

Step 2

Make sure your computer and mobile device are connected to the same wifi network.

Step 3

Connect your computer to your classroom display — a TV, projector or digital whiteboard.

Step 4

Launch Reflector on your computer.

Step 5

On your mobile device, open the screen mirroring/cast options and begin screen mirroring to Reflector.

Not sure how? Check these out:

Your mobile device will now appear on your computer screen.

Step 6

Open the camera app on your mobile device. Place your device within view of the teaching materials you’d normally use a document camera for, such as a notepad, textbook, diagram or model. Your computer will wirelessly display anything in view of your device camera.

Students will be able to see your computer screen, as well as your phone/tablet document camera on the classroom display.

Note: This method can also be used for distance learning.

  • For live class sessions, mirror your device to your computer and share your screen in your videoconferencing software. Jump to Related Reading to learn how to share your phone or tablet screen to a videoconferencing call.
  • For recorded sessions, use the recording options in the Reflector app and share later.

Pro Tips:

Need some inspiration to use Reflector as a document camera? Try these:

  • Use AR and VR apps — see our suggestions here
  • Examine microscope slides
  • Demonstrate dissections and other lab experiments
  • Write out math and science formulas
  • Teach drawing and painting methods

Related Reading

Last updated 7/30/21

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